South Dakota solar energy project hits NIMBYism

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sioux Falls and Minnehaha County planners have approved a permit for a proposed $25 million solar farm on the outskirts of South Dakota's largest city.

However, some neighbors say they will appeal the decision, and a renewable energy expert wonders why the project is even being proposed.

Minnesota-based Geronimo Energy is planning the Cherry Creek solar farm. Construction is to begin in the spring of 2016, with the farm operational by the end of that year, according to the Argus Leader newspaper and KSFY-TV. A security fence will surround the 99 acres of solar panels.

Company spokeswoman Tena Rytel said the farm is "essentially noiseless" and the panels don't have glare issues.

"They are low to the ground — when the (nearby) corn is up you actually can't see them," she said.

Some neighbors still worry about how the farm will look, and say they will appeal the permit decision. Nathan Earl, who lives southeast of the project area, wonders if rooftops might be a better choice for the panels.

"I think that maybe farm fields aren't the best place for them," he said.

South Dakota Renewable Energy Association analyst Steve Wegman said it is odd to see such a project proposed in South Dakota, which doesn't offer the same incentives for solar power projects as neighboring states such as Minnesota.

"You pay the full tax load even though, at best, you can use it only 50 percent of the time," he said. "I think they're just testing the water, personally."

Rytel said the company sees a growing need for electricity in Sioux Falls and is working on an agreement to sell the power the farm generates to Xcel Energy.

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